Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 636: debated on Wednesday 28 February 2018

On 20 February, I informed the House that I had asked all UK charities that receive UK aid to give me assurances on the safeguarding and reporting of historical cases by Monday last. I have received 161 responses, which my officials are now analysing, with independent oversight, and we have shared returns with the Charity Commission.

Unbelievably, a number of organisations have not replied. We are following up, but without compelling justification they will have lost our confidence and we will consider whether it is right to continue their funding. I will share my key findings, trends and themes in response to the safeguarding summit that will be held with the Charity Commission on 5 March, and I will keep the House informed.

Is the Secretary of State confident that Britain will remain a world leader in humanitarian aid following our departure from the European Union?

Yes, I am. Although we will undoubtedly still work with European partners and ECHO, when we have further control over the money that we are spending, that will be a very good thing indeed.

T2. It is Rare Disease Day and we have been singing outside Westminster tube station to raise awareness. What is the Department doing to make sure that those who suffer rare diseases in developing countries are not left behind? (904094)

We spend around £1 billion through our own health service and Public Health England, and into the Fleming fund and other research funds. Not only is the pioneering research that UK aid is funding saving lives overseas and developing ways to combat rare diseases, but the results are helping British citizens, too.

T8. Some 90% of the plastic that enters our oceans is carried by just 10 rivers in Africa and Asia. What are the Government doing to help some of the poorest countries in the world to tackle this global problem? (904100)

My Department is assisting developing countries to improve waste management, which helps to avoid plastic ending up in the ocean, through multilateral funds such as the Global Environment Facility. We are also working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on some new projects to identify what more we can do in line with the 25-year environment plan.

T3. I do not usually get that reception. The South Sudanese Government are preventing effective non-governmental organisations such as Christian Aid from providing aid to those who desperately need it in South Sudan. What more can be done to put pressure on that Government to allow such charities the access that they need? (904095)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right: it is a scandal that the South Sudanese Government are charging non-governmental organisations to deliver aid. The aid is getting through, and we should pay tribute to the people who are delivering it, but we are putting pressure on the Government to allow easier access for humanitarian aid.

Following on from my recent question to the Prime Minister on the Open Doors World Watch List, will the Minister considering earmarking a fixed minimum percentage of international aid to tackle religious persecution?

My hon. Friend deserves tribute for the way in which she raises this issue. In the 70th year since the United Nations’ universal declaration of human rights, it is a scandal that almost three quarters of the world’s population live in countries that restrict religious freedom. We do a lot in this area. Although we do not fix the percentage, it is important to respond to that need.

T4. Many of the Rohingya refugees are unaccompanied children at constant threat from traffickers. Can the Minister update the House on the support that the UK is providing to these vulnerable children? (904096)

We are doing many things to provide support to those children, not just in the immediate aftermath of the situation they are facing, but in protecting them and ensuring that they do not fall victim to organised crime later on down the line. We are doing many things under the compact, and also in the new panel to which I have already alluded today.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that providing jobs and livelihoods for internally displaced people wherever they may be is equally as important as providing relief aid?

I do agree with my hon. Friend, which is why the Department has shifted its funding focus to those issues that are needed over the longer term, as well as to those in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.

T5. Stability is clearly key to delivering aid in Yemen. The Southern Transitional Council appears to be providing some stability. What discussions is the Secretary of State having with it to secure the delivery of aid to both North and South Yemen? (904097)

We have no direct contact with the Southern Transitional Council. We do work through coalition partners who are closely involved with the south of Yemen. Importantly, we hope that the appointment of the new UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, with his contacts right through Yemen, will help the peace process, which is necessary to end the conflict in Yemen for both north and south.